Marching on

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The Naugatuck High School marching band practices in the parking lot at City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck Wednesday afternoon. The students have been practicing at the middle school while Naugatuck High School is undergoing renovations. –RA ARCHIVE
The Naugatuck High School marching band practices in the parking lot at City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck Wednesday afternoon. The students have been practicing at the middle school while Naugatuck High School is undergoing renovations. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Their new hash marks are a bit inaccurate and some of their equipment has been left behind, but the 73 students who make up the Naugatuck High School marching band, displaced by renovations, are making the best of rehearsals at City Hill Middle School.

The theme of this year’s show, after all, is “Triumph.”

“It’s coincidental that it happens to be during this renovation,” said Robert Hughes, band director. “That’ll be a huge accomplishment when they get it.”

For many of the students, the challenge is worth the prize at the end: a synthetic turf field, which is scheduled to be ready by the first day of school next week. Gone will be the days of marching around parking lots because of a natural grass field too slippery for rehearsal, Hughes said.

“Everybody’s super excited to have a brand-new turf field to march on,” said Megan McSweeney, an incoming senior and this year’s drum major. “I know I’m excited because it looks really nice.”

Thunder in the Valley, a well-attended competition and fundraiser the borough band hosts every year, will be the second public event on the field. It will take place Sept. 21, the day after the first home football game.

The event funds about half the band’s budget. The band was in a tough spot three years ago when a rainy week rendered the field unsafe for marching, leading to the competition’s cancellation. With a turf field, the weather will be less of a problem.

The athletic fields at the high school are getting a complete overhaul as part of an $81 million school renovation project scheduled for completion in 2015. The new turf field will be home to the football and soccer teams.

Robert Hughes, right, director of the Naugatuck High School marching band leads practice in the parking lot at City Middle School in Naugatuck Wednesday afternoon.  The students have been practicing at the Middle School while the High School is undergoing renovations. –RA ARCHIVE
Robert Hughes, right, director of the Naugatuck High School marching band leads practice in the parking lot at City Middle School in Naugatuck Wednesday afternoon. The students have been practicing at the Middle School while the High School is undergoing renovations. –RA ARCHIVE

Tuesday and Thursday nights, the 73-member band will rehearse on the field before performing at Friday home games. On Saturdays, the band typically competes all over the state or practices in the high school parking lot. This year, construction equipment has taken over that parking lot, so Saturday rehearsals will be held again at City Hill, Hughes said.

To rehearse at the middle school on Saturdays, the band will have to load its equipment after Thursday rehearsals for transportation, meaning some will not have their instruments at school on Fridays, Hughes said.

The band competes in Class III of the Musical Arts Conference and USA Bands. Last year, they won a competition at Bunnell High School in Stratford.

Despite this year’s setbacks, the students are learning complicated drill patterns and music from “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Dragonheart,” Hughes said. This week their practices last from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. They have been using hallways and any other space they can find for sectional rehearsals and uniform fittings.

“We’re working well with what we have,” McSweeney said.